Reading, Writing, and Dating Violence Prevention

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New Jersey may become the latest state to pass a law requiring middle schools and high schools to incorporate dating violence education into the curriculum.

New Jersey may join the ranks of states that have laws urging or requiring school boards to develop curriculum on teen dating violence.

According to an Associated Press report, school districts in the state will have to incorporate education on dating violence into their middle and high school curriculums if a new bill is passed. The mandate, part of legislation that was approved earlier this month by a state Assembly panel, would also require that faculty and certain staff members be trained to recognize and handle dating violence among students. Additionally, the state Department of Education would have to establish a task force to develop a policy to prevent and address dating violence at schools.

The policy would have to contain, at a minimum, a statement that dating violence will not be tolerated, as well as details on reporting procedures, guidelines for responding to at-school incidents, and specific discipline procedures.

According to the National Teen Dating Violence Prevention Project, about 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience some type of physical abuse from a dating partner in a single year.

"Teen dating violence is hurting and killing innocent children in our communities and homes," said Assemblyman David Wolfe, R-Brick, who is among the bipartisan bill's five primary sponsors. "It's a growing public health issue.” Wolfe called dating violence “a silent epidemic that is largely ignored by parents, schools and the media."

A vote for the bill has not yet been scheduled. If it is passed, dating violence education would be incorporated into the health education curriculum for students in grades 7 through 12, and would include information on the definition of dating violence, recognizing warning signs and the characteristics of healthy relationships.

According to the National Conference of State Legislators, at least seven states have laws that urge or require school boards to develop curriculum on teen dating violence. States have also adopted teen dating violence awareness weeks or months, in an effort to draw the public's attention to a national campaign that promotes prevention, safe dating practices and offers information and resources.

A number of studies show that education on dating violence is direly needed. According to research published in The Journal of Early Adolescents, more than half of a large sample of sixth-grade students responded that girls hitting their boyfriends is acceptable under certain circumstances, and more than one in four reported acceptance of boys hitting their girlfriends.

Among those reporting that they had a boyfriend or girlfriend, 31.5% of girls and 26.4% of boys reported being physically aggressive toward that person, according to the study’s lead author, Thomas R. Simon of the CDC’s Division of Violence Prevention. “These data support the need to address the problem of violence within students’ perceived dating relationships in sixth grade or earlier and suggest that preventive interventions should focus on changing norms that support violence between males and females.”

For more:

The Journal of Early Adolescents: Physical Dating Violence Norms and Behavior Among Sixth-Grade Students From Four U.S. Sites

Domestic Violence Awareness Project

Pediatric Points by Jill Taylor: Teen Violence

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